Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Making indicatives of ourselves

Okay it’s started and we are about to be bombarded with promises of things that will never be, by people who can make them safe in the knowledge they will probably never be elected. Things will get really heated with the usual name-calling reaching fever pitch and the current incumbents throwing out lollies to the huddled masses while claiming credit for every positive thing that has occurred in NZ in the last three years and shifting blame for every negative one to the opposition.

The more observant of you will have already noticed a number of ‘windfalls’ coming the way of various communities and Government Departments. Here are just a few from the last two months:

·         Health Minister Tony Ryall announces Whakatane Hospital has a new six-station satellite renal unit– September

·         Transport minister Steven Joyce says $55M Welcome Bay underpass could begin within the next three years- September

·         The Bay of Plenty is getting 12 new police recruits. - October

·         Education Minister Anne Tolley announces four Tauranga schools have ultra-fast broadband as part of the government’s rollout.– October

·         Environment Minister Nick Smith announces $15.2 million to clean up Te Aroha’s Tui Mine – October

·         Health Minister Tony Ryall announces $10 million into the health and justice system to combat drug and alcohol abuse – October

In addition to these sorts of ‘conveniently timed’ announcements there has been a welter of ‘good news’ stories. Many of these have appeared in papers and on news sites that make no attempt to question any of the apparent inconsistencies in them.

For example we learned earlier this month that crime in the Bay of Plenty and wider New Zealand had dropped and that within those figures murders had dropped. Sexual assaults and child abuse had increased but Western BOP Area Commander Mike Clement was allowed to explain that rise away by blaming it on increased reporting. He was not asked if the drop in other offences might have been down to decreased reporting. After all, many people can’t be bothered reporting smaller thefts and less serious assaults because it takes so long to get a police response and then the courts simply let the offenders off, rather like the local press did with Mike Clement.

In the midst of all this is a sneaky referendum about the voting system. I say sneaky because we will be asked two questions at the same time; do we want MMP to continue and which of the other four systems we would choose IF New Zealand decides to change. There are many things about this referendum that concern me. First it is now only four weeks until the election and there has been a zero information campaign to explain to the general public what the various other options entail. Then we will be asked to second guess the result of question 1 and choose another system ‘in case’ the majority vote MMP out. You can, however simply vote in the first part and ignore the second, and it would be interesting if everybody did that.

However what worries me more is that if more than 50 percent of us choose to keep MMP there will be a review to recommend changes to it. But it appears our input will not be required at that stage as we are obviously not smart enough to look at such things that parliament has previously decided including the thresholds to be eligible for a share of list seats, whether voters should can change the order of candidates on a party list and whether candidates can continue to have a bob each way and stand in both an electorate and on the party list. The Electoral Commission will have that job and it’s a fair bet they will give the Government of the day whatever they want. Although their brief does not include considering the size of Parliament, which is what many people are upset about, and they won’t consider the issue of Maori representation, they will be able to consider any other aspects of MMP they choose to.

If more than 50 percent of us choose to chuck MMP out, there will be another referendum in 2014 (this time a two-horse race) to run MMP off against whatever most people chose as the preferred option in part two of the poll this year.

But probably the most alarming thing about all these referenda is they are merely indicative referenda. Government does not have to take any notice of them if they so choose. It is merely an indicative referendum.
Wanna play democracy anyone?
Only if I can win!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Place your bets

I’m not usually a betting man, apart from my weekly Lotto ticket. And even that should be called a donation rather than a gamble, because up to this point it seems to be an entirely one-way street; I buy a ticket and am lucky if even one of my numbers comes up. The result is of course a donation to the Lotteries Commission. I don’t know why I don’t just set up an automatic payment and save the time of purchasing the ticket, as well as the weekly disappointment around 8pm each Saturday.

However this week, I am fired up with a few tips I have and think I should at least share some of these ‘sure things’ with those of you kind and patient enough to be reading these ramblings.

Now I should preface this with the advisory that you might not be able to get terribly good odds on some of these tips at the TAB. In fact some you might not be able to get any odds at all, unless you count the odd looks you get when you ask to place a bet on them. However, I believe life is for living and who cares what the boring people think? Life is for living and having fun.

My first tips are for the Rugby World Cup 2011:

1.      New Zealand will win the cup and I believe they will do better than the 1987 team. To do this they need to win by 21 or more points. At the time of writing this was a fairly good bet considering the All Blacks’ dominance at $3.30.

2.      Wales will beat Australia in the third and fourth place final. I think it will be fairly close which is a shame because if they win by 13 or more they will pay $6, whereas at under 13 they are paying $3.20

3.      The Rugby World Cup 2015 will be a very different beast to the 2011 one. Look out for changes to the turnaround time during pool play and a change at the top of the IRB.

4.      My long shot bet here would be the SANZAR countries, Argentina and the Pacific Islands leading a breakaway movement that will see the entire cup re-jigged and something like the mess that happened with the Packer circus emerging as the IRB lick their wounds in the aftermath of 2011.

My next bets centre on the Rena or RENA as I prefer to think of her (Really Environmentally Nasty Atrocity).

1.      The ship will break up before all the oil has been removed. I know that is hardly Nostradamus territory, but I just thought I should record it since so many with a vested interest in happy outcomes prior to a general election keep defending the inactivity of Maritime NZ and making out they have taken the best approach, which clearly they have not.

2.      The effects on wildlife in the Bay of Plenty will be measured in months at the very least, and quite conceivably in years. This is NOT a five minute wonder.

3.      The Rena skipper and his 2IC will get a pissy fine of a few thousand measly dollars that will disappear into that black whole known as the Consolidated Fund. Once the sentence has been passed the offenders will be smartly repatriated to their homelands before you can say oil slick.

4.      We, the taxpayers, and especially those of us unfortunate enough to be Tauranga ratepayers will be stumping up several times over to cover the full costs of this disaster.

5.      If re-elected, (see political predictions below) the National Disgrace Party will cite this disaster as a reason for their continued financial mismanagement.

And then there are the really political tips.

1.      National Disgrace will pitch themselves as saviours of the nation in the final run-up to the election, citing their ‘magnificent handling of the Pike River Mining Disaster 2010, the Christchurch shake festival 2010/11, and the Rena Obscener fiasco’ as examples of their ‘steady hands on the tiller – as opposed to sticky hands in the till, which is probably nearer the truth as more dodgy contracts emerge from the rubble of Christchurch. They will also claim credit for winning the RWC and say nothing about their mismanagement of the event.

2.      New Winston First will trip over their shoelaces at the start of the race and quite possibly (we live in hope), never be heard of again.

3.      The Ancient Codgers Together Party are so old with a collective age, I believe of about 98 that they might well have a couple fall off the perch before the election is over.

4.      Despite Hatfield making a lot of noise and insulting as many people as he can in a bid to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the most obnoxious arsehole in the most pointless party in the world, they will be lucky to retain any of their deposits. That’s always providing they stump them up in the first place. Don’t laugh; they managed to get a member (and that’s a good name for him) into the wasp nest without even being properly registered, so anything is possible. However if and when they do come up with nada, expect Shonkey to spit the dummy big time and accuse all and sundry of electoral malpractices.

5.      Finally – unless the National Disgrace gets caught in a major scandal (and it would probably need to be something as bad as an active kiddie porn ring in their caucus), they will unfortunately win the election and we will have to live with the mantra: Three more years.

All of the above are to a greater or lesser extent, risky bets, but I do have one dead cert for you; Muammar Gaddafi.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Oil probably not the only lubricant used

How can you drive a boat at 17 knots into a bloody massive well charted reef in fine daylight weather? With all the electronic gadgetry plus the legal requirement to carry paper charts to avoid crashes caused by the failure of electronic navigation aids, it seems impossible.

However I hear the job is much easier if you are pissed or not looking out the windscreen.

Puzzling as the original grounding, (or considering the boat’s reported speed, ramming); what is even more puzzling is why authorities took so long to do anything meaningful about it. The grounding occurred on Wednesday morning yet there was no attempt to get fuel off the vessel until Friday. So where the bloody hell were they? A guy called John Riding who is an expert in these sorts of operations was saying the first priority should have been to begin pumping oil off the vessel before they bothered about anything else. As he pointed out at the time; the weather was good but there is never any guarantee of how long that will be the case.

Furthermore the first reaction from authorities was to start spraying so-called dispersant chemical Correxit 9500 which was used to no good effect in the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But experts in these types of situations say the dispersant chemicals should only ever be used as a last resort because they very often don’t work and the jury is still out over whether they are less harmful to the environment than the original spill. In fact some say that Correxit is four times more toxic than oil. I think that song I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly should be taught in schools and sung in the way a National Anthem used to once be. We need to get it through people’s thick heads that putting out fires with gasoline does not work and in fact makes them blaze far more energetically.

Meanwhile on Monday, (five days after the crash) as Maritime NZ continued to plonk their lazy arses down on their hands, some concerned locals went down to their beaches and started to clear up some of the gunk being carried in to shore. But did Maritime NZ say, “Hey thanks folks for being such responsible and concerned citizens,”? Did they bollox! Instead the officious wankers told people to cease clearing up the mess and to wait for the official response - presumably this would be the same response they had already been waiting 5 days for.

As usual when something like this happens in this election year a host of heavyweight MPs descended upon Tauranga to stand resolutely alongside Simon the Pixie sporting suitably grim expressions show how concerned they are and how important they think Tauranga is. (So important they don’t have any suitable gear stationed here to deal with such events.) Of course between them they have done nothing more than make a dent in the MPs travel budget and grab a shit-load of photo opps to smear like great gobs of icing on their election cake in an attempt to fool the foolish and the senile, both of which we sadly have in abundance up here.

Meanwhile the same Jiangqi who was ‘so surprised and disappointed for Tauranga that we didn’t have any RWC matches’ and who cares so much about this incident, is prepared to set the navy on the wise ones among the populace who want to prevent Petrobras drilling for oil in the Bay of Plenty. Heckyeah Parata says oil drilling will provide so many jobs and so much money, but what use is money and jobs if your environment is fucked?  Will the extra dollars from oil drilling make up for the ruined fisheries and all the jobs lost from that area and its satellite industries and occupations? I doubt it very much. Somehow the supporters of that venture seem unable to understand that any cock-ups in the oil-drilling operation would make this mess look like a teaspoon of milk in the Atlantic Ocean.

So what should happen now? Well the prick in charge of the boat should walk the plank. I would be very surprised if he is not found to have been drunk, stoned, criminally negligent, or all three. The owners will obviously have to pay for the clean-up and should be fined enough to rock their corporate boat so much they do everything possible to avoid any further cock-ups of this sort.

As for the Petrobras fiasco; Jiangqi, Heckyeah and Billy Bunter Browning all need to move into the 21st century and realise oil-drilling is not the way or the fuel of the future. But as usual it is short term (and somewhat debatable) gains taking precedent over the longer term results which are evident to anyone who cares to look at the bigger picture. But then our blinkered politicians and their bureaucratic bunglers have never been able to see beyond the end of the next election anyway.